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Newberry, SC (WLTX) -- When Lee Foster was elected Sheriff of Newberry County, he contacted friend and SC Criminal Justice Academy Instructor Jerry Wright to join him as Chief Deputy.

Sheriff elect Foster was to continue to serve the county that he lived in and loved his entire life. For Wright, the scenario was different.

"Jerry was a good friend, leader, and had outstanding abilities in law enforcement," said Sheriff Foster. "He was a natural selection and the last 24 years have served as affirmation time and time again of that decision."

Jerry Wright began his law enforcement career in 1974 as a deputy with the Lexington County Sheriff's Office. Wright quickly moved through the ranks from patrol, investigations, to second in command of the warrant division.

In 1985, Wright left the Lexington County Sheriff's Office to become an instructor at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy.

There he served as an instructor on firearms, driving, and practical problems. Wright's leadership and foresight is still seen at the police academy as a version driving course he designed while at the academy is still in use today. Every police officer certified in South Carolina has had to complete this course to become certified since 1986. It was at the academy that Wright became friends with Lee Foster, who was also an instructor at the academy at that time.

When Sheriff Foster was elected Sheriff, he asked his friend Jerry Wright to move to Newberry County and become his Chief Deputy. Wright talked about the decision with his wife, Judy, and they decided he would accept the offer. Wright describes the decision as one of the best he ever made.

"I did not have the privilege of growing up in Newberry County, but I am so thankful that my family is now able to call Newberry County home," said Wright. "This is an absolutely wonderful community and I thank God for the people, our church, and all that makes Newberry County so special."

During his law enforcement career, Jerry Wright has been instrumental to every major criminal investigation of the Sheriff's Office. His thoughtful insight and input has been extremely important to many investigations such as the Vicki Lander Beckham murder case as well as many others. Wright's law enforcement abilities are seen in every aspect of his job performance and he has brought great changes to many aspects of the Newberry County Sheriff's Office during his time as Chief Deputy.

Jerry Wright has been named the Law Enforcement Officer of the year by the Newberry Exchange Club, Midlands Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1, and the State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Wright has also been extremely active with the Fraternal Order of Police. Wright said that he joined the organization 1976 and has been a member since that time. He has served as local Lodge President for 10 years, State Secretary, State Vice President, and was the State President for 11 years. He has also served on the National Board of Directors for 23 years.

Jerry and his wife Judy have been married 34 years and now they make their home in Chappells. They have two children who are now grown, Clay and Nikki. Clay serves in the United States Marine Corps and Nikki makes her home in Ninety Six.

Jerry Wright holds a Bachelor's Degree in Applied Professional Sciences from the University of South Carolina.

Wright will retire on December 31 after 38 years in law enforcement. Wright says that he wants to spend time playing golf and traveling with his wife.

"Jerry Wright's contributions to law enforcement and to Newberry County will be felt long after he is gone," said Sheriff Foster. "He has truly been a major factor in making the Newberry County Sheriff's Office one of South Carolina's premiere law enforcement agencies and I along with every officer of the Newberry County Sheriff's Office would like to say thank you and pray God's richest blessings for Jerry and his family as they enter into this new chapter of their life."

Sheriff Foster has named Jerry Wright Chief Deputy Emeritus, meaning he is retired but will maintain the professional title as a symbol of honor and respect for a job extremely well done.

When asked about a reflection of his law enforcement career, Wright said, "It has not always been easy, but it has always been rewarding. I have made many life-long friends and it has been an amazing journey."

Jerry plans to continue to make his home in the Chappells section of Newberry County saying, "This is now home to me and my family."

There will be a drop in for Chief Deputy Emeritus Jerry Wright on Thursday, January 3 at the Newberry County Court House Annex from 2-4 PM. The drop in is open to the public.

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